Once in a while these things pop up, a slice-of-life anime gem that most of us may have skipped in favor of other more hyped series running in the same season. Hitohira had absolutely nothing going for it. High-school setting about a drama club, zzzzz. Didn’t hook me up that much from the get-go. But what I was about to experience is something special. It may not have the greatest story in the world, but it is a story well told, by very lovable and relatable characters.
Everytime summer arrives, the big-budget Hollywood movies come too. It seems to be the most lucrative season of mainstream film the whole year, as blockbuster after blockbuster gets released in a span of a few months. Granted that there are some exceptions to the rule, but generally, summer blockbusters are usually shallow, popcorn entertainment for the masses. It’s not Oscar season, and so they are just raking in the big bucks for now by offering simple yet fun movies that one would probably forget after a while. In a way, this is how I felt Strike Witches was for me. It is an equivalent of a shallow, popcorny, simple and fun anime blockbuster… with a heavy slice of fanservice.
Neon Genesis Evangelion, after more than a decade, still remains to be one of the most revolutionary anime series of all time. I am not a fan of mecha, but this anime transcends beyond being mecha, bringing along twisted characters and an intriguing plot at amazing pace and intensity. I guess the anime stood the test of time, in that despite looking rather old by today’s standards, it still entertained me when I rewatched it recently in preparation for this new movie. When I got the news that Evangelion is being ‘rebuilt’ anew, I myself have mixed reactions. How would GAINAX do this? Obviously there will be comparisons, and personally I would have preferred a remake of the anime series instead of rebuilding it into four separate movies. After I had watched this first movie though… well… I still have mixed reactions I guess.
The problem with most bishoujo game based anime love stories is that the focus isn’t on the romance and how it blooms, but mostly on fleshing out the girls themselves. Because of that, you can’t really say that their romance stories are ‘romantic’. In the end, they are just giving character to the character, like revealing her secrets, exposing her pasts, or giving a little character development bump for posterity. Also, I feel like a male lead of many a bishoujo love story is so generic anyone could take his place. They have no personalities, or even if they do, they are just there without any relation to the love story. This is where shoujo romance anime takes the lead, because character development is in equal footing between the two sexes. In shoujo anime you can see a male character developing in relation to the love story with the female partner, and it makes for more interesting viewing for me than some generic harem where all you care about are the girls. So when I saw Kimikiss -pure rouge-, I was getting mighty impressed. I feel like it’s a perfect mixture of not only the best bishoujo/harem anime had to offer, but also the best that shoujo anime has in store. While in the end it wasn’t that ‘perfect’, I think Kimikiss would have earned its proper rank in my list of the best romance animes ever made.
“Still not lyrical, and they are not lolis anymore”
Initial reaction. What else can I say? This is one of the rare sequels in anime where they fast-forward about 10 years and make all characters older, taller, and sexier. That alone would alienate thousands of fans of the two original Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha series. That, along with the change of theme from innocent magic to… well let’s just say “corporate and political magic”, this would sure be a controversial piece to review. And indeed it may be, because this is the longest review I would write so far. If you can stomach all my rants and raves, please sit tight, we have a lot of ground to cover.
With the seas of bishoujos I sail lately I really appreciate having a catalyst. For this season Lovely Complex is the counter-programming, and I should say that this is really a blast! Despite rollercoaster animation quality, this shoujo series is a total LOL-fest! Extreme comedic value with a lighthearted touch on romance… and height complexes.
You see, Risa is a tall girl. Usually tall girls are the school idols of anime society, but this one here is a total baka. Well not really, she is as talkative and fun as a rowdy girl can get. On the other side, Otani is a short guy. Usually short guys get the flak and ridicule in anime society, but this one has his thing going (good basketball skills for example). Nevertheless he is quite an baka too. If we mix baka and baka together we form the “All Hanshin Kyojin”, a nickname awarded to them by the school, because they always bicker with each other as if they’re some owarai comedy duo! Yep, Risa and Otani started up doing word wars with each other… and crazily enough ended up STILL fighting by the end of the series. The question though is… will they find love with each other?
I would say that relationships between a tall woman and a short man are statistically low, it’s usually the other way around. Lovely Complex delves on this kind of ‘height complex’ a bit, in that Risa wouldn’t imagine falling in love with a short guy. Likewise, Otani wouldn’t prefer someone taller than him. Nevertheless the setup is fun enough, but what Lovely Complex excels in is the totally extreme laugh factor! All characters speak in Kansai-ben, which is a perfect dialect for owarai comedy. Tsukkomi and boke-type jokes abound, which doesn’t necessarily translate to English well, but Lovely Complex gives the aural factor treatment because ALL the characters just SHOUT their lines! This anime OVERACTS like crazy! Might as well say that this is the first OA (overacting) anime I’ve watched. This ridiculous energy made me laugh out loud ‘literally’ almost every minute, and it really never lets up. The comebacks and the witty dialogue… very well executed. Maybe not really well-executed per se but it’s done in the OA fashion as mentioned, and that makes it as if you are part of the LOL gang. You know, if they had the “laughing audience” like in US TV comedy series, I think this would be a total knockout. The comedy kept me entertained, and the story isn’t so bad either. Just my observation, but the love story seems like a reverse of what Suzuka had, in which Otani acts as the male version of tsundere… if there is such a fandom classification.
There’s nice development in the relationship of Risa and Otani, although some new characters just pop up out of nowhere near the end. This must have been a manga quirk, because they didn’t fit the whole manga content on there. I think they were struggling for a closure near the end, and the energy kinda died down, but still the rest of the series were so strong I just didn’t mind the slightly lowered quality. Speaking of animation quality, since this is a crazy LOL-fest, the character designs just zoom out of proportion, and the faces deform in very weird ways. When things get serious though, you would notice the inconsistencies in the way they draw between episodes. For a show like this though, it isn’t a major setback. Yup, this is one rare instance of me not minding the animation quality, because the rest of the show is just that good.
All in all, a surprisingly good anime, and one that makes me want more shoujo in my watch list. Lovely Complex is a hyper-WIN in my record books, and warrants my repeat watching. It’s hard to make me laugh (even rarer to make me laugh ‘out loud’) but this anime managed a ton of them (I even choked once, haha). Highly recommended.